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Nuclear fusion: Can the search for clean energy finally help fight climate change?

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A group of scholars from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratoryin California, has been able to extract more energy from nuclear fusion than they injected into it to set it in motion, A.J Advertising Tuesday, December 13, US Department of Energy.

For decades, scientists have been interested in nuclear fusion, a process that involves fusing two hydrogen atoms together at temperatures of several million degrees, as in the cores of stars. During the fusion of these light nuclei, the new nucleus created finds itself in an unstable state and tries to find a stable state by ejecting a helium atom and a neutron with a lot of energy. However, scientists have so far struggled to achieve a net energy gain due to the energy-intensive conditions needed to trigger fusion reactions.

He said achieving net energy gains is an “important milestone” for nuclear fusion research and “paves the way for the realization of fusion energy.” Forbes Troy CarterPlasma physicist in University of California.

He says that developing a machine capable of harnessing nuclear fusion would give the world “a great new clean energy.” Todd AllenProfessor of Nuclear Engineering University of Michigannoting that this will take years, as “some major challenges” remain, such as maintaining reaction for long periods of time and capturing energy at an affordable rate.

Aneeqa KhanNuclear fusion researcher University of ManchesterHe praised this “promising and exciting result”, but said Forbes It did not take into account the energy required to operate lasers containing a fusion reaction or other shortcomings or losses in the process. All these shortcomings and losses must be considered when designing a viable commercial facility. “We are still far away from commercial integration,” Anika Khan said, which means that merger “cannot help us solve the climate crisis yet.”

Ajay PamirPrincipal Investigator atImperial College London Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the EnvironmentThis trend abounded announcing Forbes That power generation technologies have always taken several decades to go from breakthrough in the laboratory to commercialization, and that the commercial break-even point for fusion “could be several years away.”

group of scientists from National Ignition Facility The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory On Tuesday, the US Department of Energy announced that it had successfully passed the ignition threshold of a nuclear fusion reactor on December 5. For the first time in history, a controlled fusion experiment produced more energy than was used to move it. “This is simply one of the most impressive scientific achievements of the 21st centurye century,” said the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, who added that the achievement would “advance our national security” by improving the United States’ nuclear capabilities and “bring us dramatically closer to the possibility of abundant, carbon-free fusion energy to power our society.” »

The time required to develop fusion as an energy source is too long to help solve the most pressing climate problems, which involve an immediate reduction in carbon emissions. “It is already too late for integration to deal with the climate crisis,” said Aneeqa Khan. Forbes. “We are already facing the devastation of climate change on a global scale, given the floods in Pakistan, the droughts in China and Europe just this summer. Addressing these issues and reducing carbon emissions cannot wait years or decades to begin,” said Ajay Gambhir. Multiple analyzes on achieving zero carbon by 2050 show that global electricity will be completely decarbonized by 2040. It is important to have long-term and short-term strategies, Anika Khan stressed, adding that one must use existing low-energy-technologies. carbon, such as nuclear fission and renewable energy, with “investment in fusion for the long term.” »

How long will integration take? All the experts who are with them Forbes He stressed the importance of this discovery, but highlighted the remaining major technical and scientific challenges to making fusion viable. Todd Allen, who said Forbes He didn’t know when the merger would be ready, and said it would take “a few more decades.” He added that significant private and public financing could get things done faster.

said Troy Carter Forbes Talking about “the will to invest and innovate” is more important than talking about time, which confirms the recent initiatives of the White House in favor of merger and important private investments in this sector. Some initiatives aim to develop pilot facilities on a scale of a decade or less.

Scientists have been interested for decades in nuclear fusion, which they see as a potentially abundant source of green energy. It is considered green because it does not emit carbon, and although it does produce waste (some by-products are radioactive), it is manageable and much less dangerous than that from nuclear fission. It provides an almost unlimited source of energy due to the abundance of fuel used, the main fuel being a heavy form of hydrogen found in seawater. And this, according to Troy Carter, could “provide enough energy for the world for hundreds of thousands of years, even millions of years.”

Translated article from the American magazine Forbes – Author: Robert Hart

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